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  • Manville Chan

My take on the Exodus of Restaurants in San Francisco


Every week, I am hearing about more and more restaurants in San Francisco closing. According to the Golden Gate Restaurant Associations, restaurant closures have begun to outpace openings by nine percent. Just in 2019, nearly 400 of them have closed their doors.


In analyzing the reasons for restaurant failure, I have came across three main reasons that owners cited: delivery apps such as UberEats or Doordash, tech companies' cafeteria providing free food to employees, and the high cost of doing business in the city.


At The Story of Ramen, our concept is quite different from a traditional restaurant. As most San Francisco restaurants are experiencing tough times, we just saw 25 percent year-to-year customer growth.


Here are my thoughts on the restaurant failure trend:


1. Restaurant food is commoditized. With UberEats and Doordash, restaurant food becomes a commodity. The last time I scrolled through one of these apps to search for Indian food, all I saw was that every place had my favorite butter chicken dish. I cannot tell a big difference between a restaurant on Mission Street selling it for $13.95 and a restaurant on Jones Street selling for $10.99. So I ended up picking the $10.99 one. The lack of branding and differentiation leads them to compete solely in price. That's why their margins suffer in such an expensive city!


2. Restaurant people are old school when it comes to technology. During my recent encounter with an ex-restaurant owner, he e